Today, Elizabeth (Williamson ’89) Herrington is a licensed mental health counselor with a successful private practice in Gilbert, Iowa. That’s a successful career for any college graduate – but for Herrington, it is a miracle.
Because of her learning disabilities, Elizabeth was advised by some educators not to attend college. “They were well-meaning people who just didn’t want to see me fail,” she says.
Their words cut deep and almost kept her from pursuing higher education. But the guidance counselor at Dayton Christian High School encouraged her to go.
A friend recommended Evangel, and she summoned up the courage to pursue a degree in Communication. It was not easy and she considered quitting early on, but with the support of caring faculty and staff, Elizabeth made dramatic academic improvements – even while working a full schedule as a banquet manager in the cafeteria. Today her success is a credit to her own hard work and the support of the Evangel community.
Herrington ’s incredible testimony is told through this letter she sent to Evangel University President Robert H. Spence and his wife, Anne in 2011.
Dear President & Anne Spence,
What a great thing it is to see how God has blessed Evangel University. It is visibly evident by the beautiful physical changes of campus, but more importantly how the new campus is able to facilitate additional growth.
It has been a long time since 1989 when I graduated but I felt led to put in writing how my experience at Evangel University has had a positive, rippling effect that still continues.
In 1983, I was encouraged to NOT go to college because of my learning disabilities. They were words spoken by well-meaning people, but words that were hard for me to overcome. I will never forget my first two days as a student and how overwhelmed I felt after reading through my syllabi. I was making the decision to go home. I stopped unpacking my boxes and went to see Dr. Elli Syler, director of the Learning Skills Center (now the Academic Support Center), to tell her of my decision.
She asked me to sit down because she had something to say to me. Little did I know that her next few sentences were going to change my mind and bring a fresh focus to looking into the supernatural that has led to my success.
Dr. Syler said that each year God put one student on her heart to mentor and tutor, and the night before God told her that person was me. I can still remember the warm tears I cried of feeling the reality that truly all things are possible through God.
During the first semester, I started at a 20 percent reading comprehension level and grew to 80 percent by the end of the year. My sophomore year I had made the dean’s list. This was exciting to me because I got to attend the banquet personally, rather than professionally assuming my banquet manager’s role. This led up to the accomplishment of achieving a 4.0 grade point average the first semester of my junior year. The Lord guided my story to reach out to others. It was at this time that I was given the privilege to share the pain I had experienced as a learning-disabled student to become the force field to spread the word on how Evangel empowered me to attain skills and experience. A large part of that was the encouragement I received from the one-on-one with professors and staff.
One of the strong memories I have is that of being invited by the Evangel Ladies’ Auxiliary to share my story. I walked in feeling vulnerable to criticism but instead received acceptance and curiosity that helped me to appropriate the skills and continue in my studies. This was the point the Lord moved my pain to purpose. The Holy Spirit shifted my energy and love to advocating for those in need.
I graduated as a member of “The Outstanding College Students Program” with a bachelor of science in Communication. Graduating in 1989 was the foundation for graduate work in pursuing a master’s in counseling from Colorado Christian University. I formed my decision that was conceived by the environment Evangel provided by influencing students to make good choices. Evangel anchored my belief to pursue a master’s and instill hope in others to find purpose within their pain to find Jesus Christ.
As a current licensed mental health counselor, I have been able to offer 10 years of private practice dedicated to bringing glory to Jesus Christ. The things that come to mind when I think of Evangel is that it helped me to guide people to become closer to Christ, to not waste their pain, to bring their burdens to Him, to offer the healing power of Jesus Christ, to find God’s healing mercy, to bring glory to God through our common suffering and to find “overcoming” in Him.
Evangel helped equip me to encourage clients to acknowledge their brokenness and find healing only in Him and find their “birthright” in His creation, calling forth the beauty as His image bearer affirming they are fearfully and wonderfully made.
In closing, as I remember my roots going back to Evangel, I have learned and empowered others to remember the pain, obstacles, and ministries or anything else means nothing apart from Jesus Christ. He is the object of our devotion and all things hold together in Him. He only asks of us to conspire (breathe) with Him until the fullness of the numbering of our days. Thank you, President and Anne Spence and Evangel University for teaching me how to breathe!
Elizabeth Herrington (Beth Williamson ’89)
For more information, you can contact Elizabeth Herrington via email.
(Re-posted from March 25, 2011, Alumni Profiles.)